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Sigur Rós - Ágćtis Byrjun CD (album) cover


Sigur Rós


Post Rock/Math rock

4.14 | 555 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Judging from the number of reviews posted about them here at Prog Archives, I'm obviously not the first person to fall so completely under the spell of this otherworldly Icelandic band. And there are plenty of other, already well-established fans who could tell you a lot more about them than I ever could. A week ago I barely recognized their name; as recent as yesterday I had not heard a note of their music. But now I offer, for your amusement and/or instruction, my first impression of SIGUR RÓS, gleaned from one initial spin of what looks like their most popular album to date.

I still can't tell you a thing about the track list or personnel: the CD I borrowed (from a very forward-thinking but typically cash-challenged Erie County library system) is missing its booklet. So all I have to work with is a Xerox reproduction of the spooky cover art (the embryonic winged infant looking like a cross between Stanley Kubrick's 2001 star child and the twisted thing in David Lynch's "Eraserhead"), and of course the music itself.

And what music it is. Brooding, melancholy post-rock dirges, with sheets of processed guitars churning like slowly cooling magma underneath a lot of subtle, ENO-influenced ambient synthesizers, and with a restrained but powerful rhythm section adding a measure of heat to the sub-arctic chill of each song.

One beautiful moment follows another for a generous 71+ minutes, and the whole thing moves like a slowly advancing glacier of psychedelic Scandinavian sound, saturated in reverb and conjuring images of Iceland's stark, uncompromising natural beauty. That feeling is only enhanced by the breathy, evocative vocals, to the groups lasting credit sung in their native tongue (no Anglo-American cultural imperialism at work here).

The extensive studio manipulation is reminiscent of RADIOHEAD's weirder sonic excursions off the mainstream rock 'n' roll path. The opening introduction (which I now understand is simply titled "Intro") in particular is a pitch-perfect, affectionate plagiarism of "Everything in its Right Place", backwards singing and all. Elsewhere the album hints at the stately Prog adagios of Landberk circa "Indian Summer" (I'm thinking here mostly of the simple but always elegant drum work), and at darker local influences too obscure to identify.

The music demands a patient set of ears, and works best when listened to in its entirety, late at night alone in a darkened room (headphones are optional).

It's always a thrill to discover uncharted musical territory for the first time. And after only one brief exposure to a single album, I'm ready to pack my bags and begin exploring the SIGUR RÓS sound more deeply.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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